I Like You, I Love Her (J. R. Rogue)

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In a lot of ways, I was one of the lucky ones. My high school crush liked me back. It should have been magic and fire, but it was tragic and brutal. I wrote it that way, anyways.

His name was Bryan Winthrop. He was our high school basketball star. The prom king. The most beautiful boy I had ever laid eyes on. He liked me — the theatre geek who never should have caught his eye — but he loved her.

It’s been more than 10 years since the homecoming dance. Since the night he kissed me, breaking both of our hearts for the first time.

After the scandal, after graduation, I left our small town and made a name for myself on Broadway, then in Hollywood. I didn’t mean for the play I wrote about our high school affair to blow up. I didn’t mean for it to reach all the way back to my roots, wreaking havoc, wrecking families.

Bryan Winthrop and I were not friends, not lovers.

But I’m back. And for one summer — if she lets us — maybe we can be.


“I’m playing with fire here; this is the truest thing I know. But I always was with him, the break in time and miles hasn’t lessened this need.”

So, I went back and forth with my rating. 4 stars or 5 stars? What do I do? What will truly justify this book for the people who read my reviews? But the more I discussed the book, mainly with Jen, and the more I focused on writing my review and getting my feelings down, this book deserves five stars. Probably more than that.

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Jen showed us a different side of her as an author, she went there for us. ILYILH was not poetic. Not to me anyways. It was not based around beautiful prose and lyrical writing. It was sharp, poignant, and jarring in all of the right ways. Which to me showed how dynamic Jen can write. Which in turn shows me how talented she truly is. Going from KMLYMI to ILYILH was a huge jump for her to take and to me she landed that jump flawlessly and stuck it like a pro.

Severin is life. Her snark, wittiness and down right charming self was radiant and cutthroat and I really liked that about her. She knew what she wanted and she knew what she had to do with her life to get there. To me, she was a strong woman, the type you don’t read about in most books. The type that more books should have.

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The alternating POVs of the past and the present add such a build to the story that I didn’t even know I needed. It gave me LIFE. Seeing how the tension of the characters build and build in their high school years and then going to present time to see how the characters are still teetering around each other brought a whole new meaning to this story. The worlds colliding was magical. Not to mention the end left me so satisfied. I was so thrilled to know I would get to interpret things my own way with Severin. I know what she would want for herself and so does she.

“My art is mine. I can take my past and do whatever I wish with it. I just forgot that there are consequences to my actions, to my words and the way my stories are told.”

I love how the title fits in and plays a huge role into the story. Period. End of story. When an author does that I get the goosebumps and I smile real cheesy-hard like. Jen did that to me.

Ben. Ben Ben Ben. The almighty philosopher Ben. I love you. My moth flutters are forever yours, I don’t have to make love such a tragedy for you! I promise!

“His hair is soft under my finders, shorn close to his head, autumn brown and not long enough for me to pull. I desperately want to make him hurt a little. Just a little, something to match the ache he always pours into my chest with that voice of his.”

I can’t wait to share my favorite quotes with you guys. My favorite lines and the meanings I took from them. I can’t wait for you to read this book that Jen poured her heart out for US. And I can’t wait for you to experience that feeling of reading it for it the first time.

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Dare Me (Megan Abbott)

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Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy’s best friend and trusted lieutenant. Beth calls the shots and Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they’re seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls — until the young new coach arrives.

Cool and commanding, an emissary from the adult world just beyond their reach, Coach Colette French draws Addy and the other cheerleaders into her life. Only Beth, unsettled by the new regime, remains outside Coach’s golden circle, waging a subtle but vicious campaign to regain her position as “top girl” — both with the team and with Addy herself.

Then a suicide focuses a police investigation on Coach and her squad. After the first wave of shock and grief, Addy tries to uncover the truth behind the death — and learns that the boundary between loyalty and love can be dangerous terrain.

The raw passions of girlhood are brought to life in this taut, unflinching exploration of friendship, ambition, and power. Award-winning novelist Megan Abbott, writing with what Tom Perrotta has hailed as “total authority and an almost desperate intensity,” provides a harrowing glimpse into the dark heart of the all-American girl.


“That’s what people never understand: They see us as hard little pretty things, brightly lacquered and sequin-studded, and they laugh, they mock, they arouse themselves. They miss everything.
You see, these glitters are war paint, it’s feathers and claws, it’s blood sacrifice.”

I did not think Dare Me was a terrible book. I do not think cheer leading books are my forte (this was no Bring It On), and I do not think this was at all what I thought it was going to be. What I did think though, was that it focused so much on these girls within the story that it lost complete focus of the story-line and plot at hand. In turn, the book got sloppy and the story line inconsistent.

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“There’s something dangerous about the boredom of teenage girls.”

I do want to start out by saying that Megan Abbott knows how to write girls. More specifically, high school and teenage girls. I feel like Dare Me really encompasses these girls fragility, innocence, power, their influence on others, and their ability to make someone do absolutely anything for them. I never once questioned the things that these girls were capable of and I have Megan’s writing to thank for that. These girls are vicious and cunning and they do not fail in making that known to the reader.

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But with me saying that I have to add how much I didn’t like reading this book from Addy’s POV. I feel like Megan tried way too hard to have an unreliable narrator but Addy was just…a mess. Not only that, but Beth was all over the place. Maybe if we had some POV’s of her’s it wouldn’t of been too bad but from the way Beth was presented to me, all erratic and such, I could’ve cared less if she was in the story or not. And the coach? Um, I must have missed something. The Coach’s relationship with the girls wasn’t developed and it was completely rushed from the get go. I don’t understand what the draw was that hooked these girls to their coach and Megan didn’t do too great of a job giving that to us either.

These girls are vicious and mean and cruel and I in no way enjoyed their dialogue or the way they talked to each other and their peers.

And speaking of peers…WHERE WERE THE PARENTS?! That drove me mad the entire time. But back to what I was saying…

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The topic that the author is trying to introduce us to with these teenage girls was not done in an intelligent or caring way, in my opinion. I can’t touch on that any more because it’s a huge spoiler. But you’ll see.

“When you have nothing inside of you, you feel everything more, and feel you can control all of it.”

If you’re looking for a story about the things that happen when teenage girls become bored or even a story with decent twists, Dare Me is for you. To me, there was entirely too much going on with the story line mixed with a sloppy narrator with inconsistencies mixed throughout the entire book but as a whole I really enjoyed how well Megan wrote these characters and the way she evoked them throughout the book as whole.

Break My Fall (M. Mabie)

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For twelve years, I lived alone in my cabin, building a life with my two bare hands. I was free from their rules, their policies, and their lies. 
They are a cult. 
My father is their leader. 
To protect my brother’s widow, I’m making her my wife. It’s her only way out. 
But drawn to the purity in her deep blue eyes and the innocence of her gentle voice, I wonder if I’m not the biggest monster of them all. I have to save her from them and myself. Because every second I spend with this timid woman, I fight the urge to claim her. 
Own her. 
Make her truly mine. 
And I know it’s wrong. 
I will break her fall—if I don’t break her first.


“Pray on it, Myra.”

I am saying this much more than I typically do but here goes: I really liked this book and that took me by surprise because I wasn’t sure if it would be my “forte” or not. But silly me, I should have known that M. Mabie would write this book so diligently that it would capture the hearts of every one that picks it up so easily. And that’s what it did for me. Snuck right on in and stole my heart.

I am extremely pleased with the character building that has been developed in this book. I feel like before we know it, we are going to get a side of Myra that we don’t quit expect nor see coming and I am already here for it! Already seeing Abe shift and change to accommodate Myra was exceptional, how committed he is and how he tries to make things good for her makes my heart soar but I truly cannot wait to see where Mo takes us with Myra.

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I enjoyed the fact that Mo went somewhere that a lot of authors won’t go. And I really enjoyed the fact that Break My Fall was a completely unique story. I can honestly say I haven’t read one like this before. The plot, characters, and the way she incorporate Religion was done in a way that worked for me.

“I hadn’t been kissed until I was kissed by Abraham.”

I wanted more of Myra. That’s my quirk with BMF. I wanted to experience her POV a little bit more than what we did so I am hoping with the next two books we get more and more of her. She’s full of fire and rage, I just know it. I just want to see it so bad. Call me selfish.

Break My Fall IS part of a series. It isn’t a standalone and there is a cliffhanger. This first book was like the foreplay that you get before you know you’re getting a climax. Shit is going to hit the fan, and it’s going to hit it hard. AND I CANNOT WAIT.

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The Boy and His Ribbon & The Girl and Her Ren (Pepper Winters)

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REN
Ren was eight when he learned that love doesn’t exist—that the one person who was supposed to adore him only cared how much he was worth.
His mother sold him and for two years, he lived in terror.
But then…he ran.
He thought he’d run on his own. Turned out, he took something of theirs by accident and it became the one thing he never wanted and the only thing he ever needed.

DELLA
I was young when I fell in love with him, when he switched from my world to my everything.
My parents bought him for cheap labour, just like they had with many other kids, and he had the scars to prove it.
At the start, he hated me, and I could understand why.
For years he was my worst enemy, fiercest protector, and dearest friend.
But by the end…he loved me.
The only problem was, he loved me in an entirely different way to the way I loved him.
And slowly, my secret drove us apart.


“I would never let her down again. I would die for her. I would love for her. I would kill for her.” 

This isn’t like a lot of the other books that Pepper Winters writes. Not at all. I didn’t think I would like it because 1) I typically enjoy her story tropes and the way she writes and 2)as I kept reading I realized this story wasn’t going anywhere. Until suddenly, it was. 

I’m torn on how to rate this actually so I’m just going to say this book can’t be rated accurately because although I liked it, it took me awhile to like it. The first half or so (Della age 5-10) took me some time to get into but once I got to the point where I couldn’t stop turning the pages, there was no going back for me. 

The dynamic between Ren and Della was electrifying but not in the romantic sense. I can totally dig that. Watching him take care of her and learn the ropes of being around her, opened up such a soft spot for me for Ren. Pepper did a superb job at making sure she built this brother/sister relationship for us to see and then she slowly turned us to realize that hey, maybe it’s not so sister/brother and THAT WAS OKAY! I was okay. It wasn’t weird for me. They were soul mates. No matter their age. 

I loved the way Pepper incorporated Della’s thoughts into something that we see every so often in the book as her actual writing! I loved that. Hearing part of the story, her story, through her own POV really set the tone of the story for me. 

“He cared with his entire soul and committed with his entire being.” 

The coolest part of this story was how the author spanned 20 years, in a clean manner. Not jumping or rushing through anything, it was clean and smooth. Each chapter transitioning into a new year and a new experience. I really felt as if the author did a great job showing us the age transitions and the events that growing children often go through such as puberty, school, learning, etc. 

Unrequited love stories seem to be a trope I’m starting to really enjoy and that’s what this story was. A girl, loving a boy so much, but a boy loving her in a different way. In a way that the girl didn’t understand wouldn’t evolve like hers did. I am here for Ren and Della. I’m going to the next book because all of the tension that Pepper built up in this first book needs some relieving for me. 


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REN
Ren didn’t know the meaning of love until he took Della for his own.
To begin with he hated her, but as the months bled into years, he learned the opposite of hate, dedicating his life to giving her everything.
Every sacrifice, every gift, he gave wholeheartedly.
But then love turned to lust and ruined everything.

DELLA
I was stupid to write my secrets down, but I’d been stupid before so it was nothing new.
I couldn’t blame him, hate him, fix him.
I tried to move on without him.
But no matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to delete the secrets I’d written.
Until something happened.
Until he came back and read my stupid secrets.
And nothing was the same after that.


“True love was a vicious monster, feeding on my reserves, breaking me beneath its resolve to either kill me if I didn’t obey or destroy me if I did.”

Now, I don’t know if it was just me being inside of Ren and Della’s world for 72 hours straight or if it was my hormones and tiny heart but this book destroyed me. I was so invested and caught up in Ren and Della that I just felt so consumed by the feelings that Pepper was extracting from me. They swallowed me whole. Plus, it was rather late and I feel like I was sleep deprived so yeah, maybe that is where the tears came from. I’m going to go with that.

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First and foremost: even with me knowing the catastrophe I would be faced with the further I became invested in this story, I couldn’t stop. I. COULD. NOT. STOP. I couldn’t put this book down for the life of me. It was rocking on 1AM and I couldn’t give in and put it down, I was truly not ready to let these characters go. Maybe it was the fact that this is the first character connection I have felt in a while, maybe it was the fact that I haven’t read a romance this great in a long time, either way, I couldn’t stop. Did you hear me? Maybe I need to say it again. I couldn’t let these two people go! I had to know what I was going to be left with in the end.

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In both The Boy and His Ribbon and The Girl and Her Ren, we experience Ren and Della’s confusion and yearning as they navigate their way through childhood, their teenage years, and their adulthood. Pepper wrote a story of forbidden love and feelings, sacrifice, survival and loyalty. FIERCE loyalty. The type of loyalty I have not seen in a long time. What Ren and Della had, was a once in a lifetime love and not once did it ever feel forced to me. We got to go step by step right next to these two conflicted characters and live their many lives with them.

Once again, Pepper incorporated Della’s POV in the most convenient way. Hearing her love for Ren and the things that encouraged her to fall in love with him makes US fall in love with him and that is the type of book I am looking for when I read a romance. I want to FEEL THAT. I want to share that feeling with the heroine and by God did I ever feel that in The Girl and Her Ren.

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“True love is constant. It has no beginning, middle, or end.”

This duet hit me by total surprise. To me, it was an incredible journey of growth and love and realizing that our time here, is so short. I realized that there would never be a point in this story (either of them) that I would have enough of Ren Wild and Della Wild. I was just as devoted to Ren and Della as they were to each other. There are books out there that we read and we enjoy but then there are books that completely knock the breath out of us and leave us captivated. This is that book. Ren and Della will be with me for as long as I live. Their tale of survival and love, them in general, I will forever remember them.

When the Lights Go Out (Mary Kubica)

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Jessie Sloane is on the path to rebuilding her life after years of caring for her ailing mother. She rents a new apartment and applies for college. But when the college informs her that her social security number has raised a red flag, Jessie discovers a shocking detail that causes her to doubt everything she’s ever known.

Finding herself suddenly at the center of a bizarre mystery, Jessie tumbles down a rabbit hole, which is only exacerbated by grief and a relentless lack of sleep. As days pass and the insomnia worsens, it plays with Jessie’s mind. Her judgment is blurred, her thoughts are hampered by fatigue. Jessie begins to see things until she can no longer tell the difference between what’s real and what she’s only imagined.

Meanwhile, twenty years earlier and two hundred and fifty miles away, another woman’s split-second decision may hold the key to Jessie’s secret past. Has Jessie’s whole life been a lie or have her delusions gotten the best of her?


“What makes not sleeping even worse than the crippling fatigue is the boredom that infiltrates those nighttime hours. The misery. The morbid thoughts that keep me company all night long.”

SO GOOD. Just so good. I know now after finishing When the Lights Go Out that Mary Kubica is an author that I will consistently read now. The books that I have read of hers have been great, thrilling and twisty reads and this one was no different.

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I wanted to start with her writing first. In this book, Mary’s writing was compelling and eerie (and we all know I have a thing for eerie writing). So when I was reading, I couldn’t quit turning the pages because I was mesmerized by the way she was explaining the things that were taking place. The details and intricate placing of the events taking place were woven together in a way that would throw most authors off. That most authors wouldn’t even be able to execute so, props to her there.

Now, to stem off of what I said above, the book is told in two different POV’s and a past and present. Both story lines taking place were equally great. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to stay in the present tense or the past tense and I know that is a huge thanks to the author’s writing. The past POV was just as thrilling to me as the present one was. To me, that is a cool problem to have.

At times the book was so haunting. Not only because of the setting but because of Eden’s POV. How she transforms into this person that no one knows. How she is just taken over and entranced with what she wants. I loved the feel of not ever knowing what she was going to do and when she was going to stop. And then when you get to Jessie you hold her hand the entire way through and try to understand the things that she is trying to understand in the process that she is using. It’s hard to jump on board with at first but once I got the hang of being inside Jessie’s head I understood it more and more.

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Another favorite thing of mine was going back and piecing all of her puzzle pieces together. Mary Kubica made it so easy to do, too! I finished the book and then thought back at all of the wild things that kept taking place and it all made sense to me. The bread crumbs that this author always leaves behind is so cool to experience.

The ending was bizarre (hence my four star rating). I was really confused for a second because there is another chapter in the book that makes us think one thing but I think it was just a sloppy sleight of hand that the author tried to pull over on us. So with all of my positivity I had to just point out how disappointed the ending made me.

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I was so sure I knew what the ending would be but to my dismay, it wasn’t what I thought. Although I didn’t agree with it and it didn’t play out how I wanted it to, I absolutely love that! How fun to read a book and get so lost in it’s words that we come up with all of these possibilities and they don’t turn out accurate? I feel as if this would be a great novel for a book club to read and pick apart and a discussion that I would LOVE to be a part of .

Synthetic Love (Christina Hart)

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Alan Shaden may look like your average Tinder crush – 6’2”, dark hair, dark eyes, dimples – but with his rugged exterior comes a soft and battered heart, and his biggest secret (literally), which he keeps hidden in the back of his closet. 

Alan doesn’t stop to think he’s a sex addict until a therapist deems him one, but that’s right before they have sex in her office. Alan isn’t the best man. He’s the first to admit it, but he’s trying to be better. It’s not easy having good intentions and compulsive desires at the same time. 

As Alan’s layers peel away, you come to know the worn soul beneath the man. The traumatic childhood tragedies that have made him this way. A troubled past can shape you, or break you, and Alan is teetering somewhere in between. But he’s a gentleman at heart, hiding a dark past, and a life-size, synthetic secret. 

Sabrina is a doll. She can’t move. She can’t talk. She can’t kiss Alan back like a real woman can. She can’t even tell him she loves him. But what she can do for him is something no woman has ever done before: she can stay. Who said love had to be with a real person for it to be real?


“I never realized how hollow she was. Sabrina, the silicone sex doll. Her eyes, they look empty. Lifeless. Worn. And it’s only in that moment that I wonder if she sees the same thing in mine.”

Oddly enough, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I am not quite sure what that says about me but it really worked for me. When I finished the book I felt so…empty. A good type of empty. An empathetic one. An empty like Alan felt, and emptiness that I wanted so bad to be full but I just knew it wouldn’t be. A yearning and wanting mixed into one. Like, I wanted to hold Alan and give him the coddling that he craved from a woman so bad.

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A lot of things happen to Alan throughout the entire book and we experience every single one of them with him. It was repulsing, my stomach would churn, and it was masochistic of me to keep plowing through the book. But I understood what the author was doing. She was explaining to us why Alan was the way he was. She didn’t do it for shock factor or dramatics and I can always appreciate that. Understanding the tics and the ins and outs of a character is one of my most favorite things about a book and Christina took a character driven story and gave us his life on his own term and in his own words.

“I am still 18 years old and still nursing a broken heart when it breaks all over again, in a different way. In a way I’m afraid I will never recover from.”

The writing was quick paced and packed a huge punch. It reminded me a lot of Joe in Caroline Kepnes’ book, YOU. The way she wrote out his thought processing was the similar to the way Alan’s thoughts come across the page. Not to mention the way the writing was punctuated and all laid out for you made for a smooth and enjoyable reading experience. I don’t think I have ever read anything like this before. It’s unconventional, uncomfortable, and uneasy. But it’s so full of empathy and love. Christina does a fantastic job at pulling the feelings from you that you don’t quite expect to feel.

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Synthetic Love is the type of book that will be hit or miss with people. I don’t see how there is an in-between. PLEASE heed those trigger warnings at the beginning of the book. Don’t take them lightly. I normally pay no mind to them, but this one is braving you for what is to come in this book. But don’t let it scare you away from the story itself. I am more than happy to let you know what to bypass so you don’t have to read it, but I hope that you read this book as a whole. It’s such a cool and original story that hasn’t been done before.

How to Save a Life (Emma Scott)

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Josephine Clark is trapped. A harrowing past haunts her every time she looks in the mirror, and she can’t escape the violence of her everyday life. More and more, her thoughts turn to Evan Salinger, the boy she knew in high school. The boy they called a mental case. A loner. A freak. The boy who seemed to know things no one could know. For a few short weeks, Jo had found perfect solace in Evan’s company, sneaking every night to meet him at the local pool. In the cool of the water and the warmth of Evan’s arms around her, Jo had tasted something close to happiness. 

Cruel circumstances tore them apart, and four years later, the sweet memory of their time together is dissolving under the punishing reality of Jo’s life now. Evan seems like a fading dream…until he reappears at the moment she needs him most. Guided by Evan’s strange intuition, they flee her small Louisiana town, and Jo begins to suspect there is something more to his sudden return than he admits.

Over twelve days across America’s heartland, deep secrets come to light, buried pasts are unearthed, and the line between dreams and reality is blurred as Evan and Jo fight to hold on to their soul-deep love, and discover that there is more than one way to save a life.


“In sleep we dreamed. And in our dreams, we were together, still.”

I have owned this book since early 2016 and I am so mad at myself for just now experiencing it. I love the type of books that allow us to experience a long relationship of characters. Starting from their teenage years, to the years that follow. How to Save a Life followed Jo and Evan at the perfect amount of time for me. I grew so attached to these characters that I couldn’t even see straight. Had Emma Scott not won my heart over with Rush, she would have won it in no time with this story.

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The characters were my favorite part of the book. The distinctions of their characteristics and their dynamic together brought a perma-smile to my face. The fact that we get dual POVs with this book, makes it even better. Being inside Evan’s head, knowing that these things are happening for a reason (but not knowing said reason yet) was so much fun. I couldn’t stop guessing what was going to happen with these two characters. And the more things that kept happening to them, the more I was gasping.

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“I’ll always come back to you.”

Evan’s devotion to Jo was life for me. The way he not only told Jo he would always come back but actually DID come back, stole my heart. I think that’s all that I can say without giving too much away. His dedication to her alone was so empowering.

The writing was perfect to me. Despite a few editing errors, Emma Scott has a voice that stays with me long after I finish her stories. How to Save a Life surprised me completely. What I thought was just going to be another story like all of the other ones that are out there, turned out to be a very deep and moving book. For that, I’m eternally grateful for Emma Scott and her way of creating such incredible stories.